Indoor hydroponic gardening, or hydroponics as it’s commonly known, has had a bad press over the past few years, due to illegal plants being grown away from watchful eyes and extending the growing season indefinitely.
So let’s lay the bad press to rest and find out what all the fuss is really about…..
Hydroponics is the answer to growing plants if you haven’t a garden, are physically challenged, or simply live in a short season growing region. With a fairly small initial outlay – no more than the cost of a few regular garden tools – you can set up an indoor hydroponic gardening area in a cupboard under the stairs, a basement or even the attic if it’s easily accessible.
Hydroponics – the running costs:
Running costs have to be considered as the lights will be drawing electricity for long periods. It’s impossible to put an exact figure on the electricity bill, but when you come to buy your starter kit, the information should be available according to your area and the lights used. Technology is improving all the time and newer energy-saving bulbs are becoming available as time goes on.
Then there are costs of nutrients – these are needed to add to the water to replace nutrients normally extracted from the soil.
New cubes will have to be purchased from time to time… cubes are pots and soil combined and seeds are started and moved on using cubes which are made from materials such as rockwool.
Seeds have to be bought, but with a little careful attention, the germination rate will be good, and seeds can be sown sparingly.
You can start off the seeds in a couple of different ways. If you use a soil-less mix – peat pots or similar, the seeds will germinate with fresh water only. But if you decide to start the seeds in ‘rockwool’ – which is a popular hydroponics medium – you will need to add nutrients to the water from the start.
Seeds and cuttings can be easily started in rockwool filled cubes and you should have full instructions in your kit as to how and when you should plant different species of plant.
NB: Make sure you have as much information as possible when buying hydroponics equipment. Buying a kit is the best introduction to this type of gardening. Don’t spend money on ‘extras’. The gadgets and add-ons may not be beneficial to you. Grow some stuff first, then decide if you need to spend any more money!
Hydroponics – caring for your plants:
Light, temperature and humidity are all elements involved in producing your hydroponic veggies. The exact number for each element will depend on your kit and what you’re growing.
Generally the temperature shouldn’t be much more than 80 degrees, or there is a risk of burning the foliage. Minimum temperature around 70 degrees, so for many of us, this requires power to keep the temperature up.
The other main ingredient for a good crop is nutrients – If you’re not using soil, your plants will need nutrients fed to them every day in their water supply. Look around for good prices, but don’t be tempted by the cheapest. You need all the nutrients your plants require, so no skimping on the vitamins!
Hydroponic gardening under lights will produce a crop of virtually anything in less time than an outside crop. When one lot of plants gets going and has moved to the growing on stage, start off some more seeds so you have a constantly producing hydro-garden.
Keep notes of any temperature changes and what happened with the plants. A gardening journal is invaluable in any growing situation but even more so with indoor hydroponic gardening, there are different issues to deal with for example:
*temperature and humidity fluctuations
*bugs and viruses
Outdoor gardening has similar issues, but we have no control over the weather, and we accept our destiny, albeit hard, when the cabbage white butterfly has just annihilated a whole crop of winter greens in 2 days.
Indoor gardening gives you much more control over the environment. In fact, you are in control totally, and notes are best kept!!
A few final points about Hydroponics:
1. Read about the product before you buy – does it really suit your needs?
2. Make sure you have all growing mediums and nutrients before you start.
3. Don’t be too ambitious. Start with a simple crop and let your knowledge grow!
4. Remember your electricity bill may be higher than usual. Perhaps grow crops that would be expensive to buy?
5. Keep notes. As I mentioned above, a journal is invaluable to the hydroponic gardener. (There’s a printable Garden Journal on this page if you haven’t got one yet)